Pacer Notes: Learning to solve future world issues
"Present and voting!" we each responded after hearing our names as we entered the Security Council. I was the United Kingdom delegate, sitting next to the Tunisian delegate, across from the representatives from China and Ethiopia. We were about to design a plan to solve the issue of chemical weapon use in Syria.
This was my first topic at the annual Model United Nations (MUN) conference — a yearly high school program hosted in many states and other countries.
After researching topics and writing position papers, as well as preparing ourselves to speak in front of other high school students, more than one hundred Lakeridge students boarded busses and joined over a thousand other Oregon high schoolers at MUN. Students represent countries and create resolutions to address current world issues. Prior to the conference, they are assigned their countries and write research papers on topics they will later discuss in their committees. During the April conference at the University of Oregon, the statewide delegates met in their respective committees, each with around 20-50 representatives, and worked to form resolutions for each researched issue, modeling the actual United Nations.
After sitting in a committee for two hours, high schoolers created a plan to end human trafficking in Libya. In another room, countries' representatives debated the topic of climate change while next door, other students strategized how to mitigate the spread of tuberculosis.
Sitting in a room for hours discussing, debating and reaching consensus may not sound like a high schooler's ideal way to spend a long weekend, but it turned into an exciting challenge as we worked together to solve real problems facing our world.
Building consensus with students we had never met before, speaking in front of dozens of new faces, it was a growing experience for all of us. We also had opportunities to see the less serious side of our fellow delegates in a talent show where a variety of acts included a delegate playing three recorders at once and a unicyclist walking on the wheel.
The conference is student-run, yet could not occur without the support of some of our high school teachers who coordinated everything from sign-up and gathering chaperones, to ensuring students' safety while they were on a college campus.
Since the conference only lasts three days, our resolutions were not perfect; yet the experience brought together thousands of students who want to face our global issues, and attempt to make a change. It may be a simulation, but it is a real way to gain the skills and confidence needed to attempt to solve these world crises in the near future.